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Myanmar Update (December 2021)

Since the February 2021 military coup, I’ve been sending updates every 4-6 months on the conflict and on Parami University to interested family and friends.

My last Update was sent on or around August 19. Regarding Parami University, I can only

think of good news since then. The news about the civil war in Myanmar is decidedly mixed.

My short take on the civil war:

--the standoff between the military and the resistance continues with no breakthroughs on either side.

--resistance in the form of open demonstrations has diminished in the face of brutal and random repression by the military.

--there is a trickle of striking civil servants, teachers, etc returning to work, apparently mostly a "last resort" option for families, but how much work they are doing is debatable; there may be a lot of passive aggression taking place.

--the armed Peoples Defense Force (PDF) units scattered across the country have been launching successful small-scale attacks at a significant pace.

--responding to these attacks, the military has launched large and bloody operations in Chin State, Kayin State, and Sagaing Region.

--The National Unity Government (NUG-led by Aung San Suu Kyi's NLD party) has made modest gains in organizing itself as a credible alternative government.

--The National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC--designed to embrace all ethnic minorities in building a new federal nation) has made modest gains in drafting a federal constitution.

--Significantly, the ASEAN Community agreed to disinvite coup leader General Min Aung Hlaing to its Leaders Summit in October, and he refused to send a "non-political" representative.

--Sanctions on coup leaders and their supporters by the USA and other countries have been tightened step-by-step, with no obvious effect.

--China has not yet totally embraced the coup-led regime. Russia has supported it openly and significantly.

--Aung San Suu Kyi was recently sentenced to two years in prison, with numerous other charges pending; she seems to be becoming politically marginalized slowly and steadily. Sean Turnell (Australian economic advisor to ASSK) remains to be sentenced.

--"Wild man" (my jaundiced view) Bill Richardson met with General Min Aung Hlaing in November and left with Frontier journalist (American citizen) Danny Fenster who had just days before been sentenced to 11 years of hard labor.

--The economy is steadily shrinking, with estimates of poverty by the World Bank and others upwards from 40 percent.

--It is impossible to assess the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic because there is no central reporting, but it is clear that the vaccination rate is very low.

--The coup leaders are blocking many offers and avenues of humanitarian assistance. The amount entering is in trickles.

--There is almost no meaningful teaching happening at the college/university level from inside Myanmar. Teaching at the primary and secondary levels is much diminished by the pandemic and the resistance.

--For a remarkably granular description of the contest between the coup leaders and the resistance, I'm attaching a recent report from Transnational Institute.

As for Parami University:

--The 8-week Summer Session concluded satisfactorily, but I misunderstood the enrollments in the Summer Session and the Fall Semester. They were closer to 100 and 400 respectively.

--The Fall Semester, consisting of two 8-week modules, has just wound up. I taught "The World of Economics and Finance" for a second time in the second module. 20 students were enrolled in my course (the number was capped by me). To my astonishment, 18 completed the course. One of the two who hasn't completed it is in the process of fleeing to a safe place. The other one seems to be a "dropout". The teaching for me was easier in terms of the content but almost equally time-consuming because I was working with twice as many students. Their performance was impressive considering the circumstances: electricity blackouts, no wi-fi, Covid-19 in their families, hiding from the police, etc.

--The big news is that Parami U is in the process of establishing in Washington DC. After examining alternative locations in Asia and in other US states, it appears that the legal framework for establishing Parami U as an online, degree-granting liberal arts and sciences college is most favorable in DC. We (speaking as a member of the Board of Trustees) are now on track to admit the first class of 100 Burmese students in August 2022 for a full 4-year curriculum. Adding a new class of 100 each year in the following three years will create a student body of 400 students. There will be a significant tuition fee (by Myanmar standards), but also generous financial aid designed to meet the needs of all selected applicants.

--Meanwhile, Parami Institute will continue to offer: (a) the 9-month Parami Leadership Program that has been quite successful for the past four years; and (b) continuing education courses taught by part-time faculty like the one I've been teaching. The course range for continuing education has fee limits. Parami is actively seeking more continuing ed teachers for its 8-week courses meeting three times a week for an hour each time or two times a week for 90 minutes each time. I hope some of you will consider teaching a course, in which case I will promptly send you a course proposal form.

--Of course, like every other educational institution, we are constantly fundraising. Feel free to pass this Update to anyone who might be interested in donating. Information on giving can be found on Parami's website:

Americans can make tax-deductible donations from the website via PayPal or with a credit card. I can provide the mailing address for donations from donor-advised funds in the USA.


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